Remove mountaintop crosses and banner, FFRF tells Tenn. town czimmerman@ffrf.org (Casandra Zimmerman) News Releases – Freedom From Religion Foundation – Freedom From Religion Foundation

Read More News Releases – Freedom From Religion Foundation – Freedom From Religion Foundation The Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking a Tennessee town yet again to remove a bunch of crosses and a Christian banner from atop a mountain.
In the 1950s, crosses were placed on Lynn Mountain in Elizabethton by a group of boys who were challenged by their Sunday School teacher to do something unusual for Easter. The activity reportedly “almost landed them in jail” for cutting trees and clearing the land without permission. The crosses remain there to “remind us daily of our faith,” as the local paper puts it. In a video of the crosses at Easter, a banner adjacent to the crosses reads “JESUS IS LORD.” 
The Establishment Clause requires religious neutrality so that religious and nonreligious are treated equally, FFRF emphasizes. Using government property and, possibly, government funds to sponsor a Christian message does not respect this constitutional dictate.
FFRF wrote to Elizabethton about this issue in 2018. The city’s legal counsel acknowledged at the time the state/church watchdog’s concerns in writing and indicated he would discuss the issue with city officials and respond accordingly. More than three years later and several follow-up inquiries, FFRF is still waiting. 
“Our concern remains that the city of Elizabethton is maintaining an unconstitutional religious display on city property,” FFRF Legal Fellow Karen Heineman writes to Elizabethton City Attorney Roger G. Day.  “As you are likely aware, since our original letter of complaint, the U.S. Supreme Court has modified its analysis for Establishment Clause violations concerning ‘established, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices.’” (American Legion v. American Humanist Association, 2019)
In American Legion, the court discussed four considerations with established monuments that justify using a different legal framework. The Elizabethton crosses do not satisfy these considerations, FFRF points out. They were erected on city property without permission by a group of boys challenged by their church. The crosses stand alone, except for times when an overtly Christian message accompanies them. The message of the crosses has not changed over time; the religious purpose is not obscured, rather, it is highlighted at certain times, such as Easter.
Removing the crosses is necessary to return to the religious neutrality the city abrogated when it allowed the illegal crosses to continue to stand on government property with no purpose other than providing a prominent symbol of Christianity, FFRF concludes. Moving the crosses to private property would satisfy the obligation.
“Elizabethton is not a Christian town, Tennessee is not a Christian state and the United States is not a Christian nation,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s high time that this constitutional violation is corrected.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 36,000 members and several chapters across the country, including hundreds of members and a chapter in Tennessee. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.